It'll be a family affair for Shea and Blake Molitor when they square off against one another Tuesday at Emory G. Bauer Field. Teammates two seasons ago at Des Moines Area CC, the twin brothers will be in opposite dugouts in a midweek tilt between Valpo and Illinois State. One day later, the Crusaders will head to Notre Dame to continue their long-running series with the Irish in a 6:05 pm ET/5:05 pm CT first pitch.
Illinois State (8-19, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Valparaiso (9-15, 5-3 Horizon)
Emory G. Bauer Field - Valparaiso, Ind.
Tue. Apr. 5th - Losi (R) (2-3, 6.12) vs. Weis (R) (0-2, 6.75) 3 pm CT
For the second straight Tuesday, the birds are back in town. After hosting the Ball State Cardinals last week, the Illinois State Redbirds swoop into Valparaiso for a midweek affair. Illinois State was picked to finish sixth in the 2016 Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll, one point behind Indiana State. The Crusaders and Redbirds last met in 2008 in Clarksville, Tennessee. ISU claimed that contest, 9-3, to boost its lead in the all-time series to 19-5-1 over the Brown and Gold.
Illinois State is seeking to find its offensive stride after graduating Paul DeJong, a fourth-round selection in the 2015 MLB Draft. The Redbirds enter Tuesday's clash with a collective .236 batting average and 250 strikeouts in 27 games. A come-from-behind 6-5 win versus Xavier on Saturday snapped a ten-game slide. Illinois State has trailed in 23 affairs.
Blake and Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) were teammates at Des Moines Area CC during the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. Blake, an outfielder, is seven for his first 31 at the plate with a pair of doubles for ISU. In his second installment with the Crusaders, Shea is batting .322 with an .800 OPS. His 19 runs batted in are one shy of the club leader, Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]).
Owen Miller has taken the baton from DeJong as offensive catalyst. Miller boasts team highs in batting average (.299), hits (35), doubles (12), home runs (4), and RBIs (24). His 12 two-baggers rank as the 18th-most in Division I baseball. Joe Kelch has cracked three home runs to complement his .275 average. Jean Ramirez has also logged three round-trippers in 98 at-bats.
Mitch Weis will get the ball for the Redbirds in what will be his fourth start of the season. Weis has had a short leash up to this point with ten equaling his season watermark in outs recorded in an outing. He yielded just two hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings last time out versus Eastern Illinois in a tough-luck loss.
Illinois State's team ERA rests at 5.66.
Tuesday also signifies the return of assistant coach Mike Stalowy to Emory G. Bauer Field. Stalowy served in the same capacity with the Crusaders during the 2014 season.
WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will carry live audio of the action.
Valparaiso (9-15, 5-3 Horizon)
Notre Dame (15-11, 6-6 ACC)
Frank Eck Stadium - Notre Dame, Ind. (2,500)
Wed. Apr. 6th - Foreman (R) (0-0, 3.31) vs. TBD (0-0, 0.00) 5:05 pm
After getting off to a chilly start, the Irish come in on a heater. Notre Dame has won seven of its last eight games, a streak that began with a 9-5 defeat of UIC. Since then, they seized a road sweep at Virginia Tech, downed Oregon, a club that was ranked as high as No. 9 this season, and took two of three from Wake Forest. Seven of Notre Dame's eleven losses have come at the hands of Top 25 clubs.
Aside from a hiccup in the opening tilt of their doubleheader against the Demon Deacons, the Irish pitching staff has been the root of their recent streak. Opponents have plated more than five runs just once in the last two weeks versus Notre Dame pitching. The lone occasion resulted in ND's only defeat in the last two weeks.
Cavan Biggio, the son of MLB Hall of Fame second baseman, Craig, has appeared in all 139 games since arriving to South Bend. A collective .252 batter in his underclassman days, the junior is experiencing a breakout campaign in 2016. He leads the nation in walks (34) and is reaching base at a .527 clip. Biggio is 27-for-30 on the basepaths for his career and his .330 batting average is second only to Zak Kutsulis. Biggio leads the Irish in hit-by-pitches (4), a stat his father is surely proud of.
Ryan Lidge, whose father, Brad, also starred in the big leagues with the Houston Astros, has started 13 games behind the plate for head coach Mik Aoki. Opponents have swiped 38 bases in 44 attempts, good for a 86.4% success rate.
Redshirt junior Ellis Foreman (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point) will make his 18th career for the Crusaders, and his third against Notre Dame. He opposed ND in back-to-back starts in 2014, surrendering 11 earned runs on 19 hits in 12 innings of work. Though Foreman may not have been at his sharpest in either one of those appearances, the Valpo offense posted a single tally in both matchups.
Notre Dame had not announced a starter as of Monday evening. It's possible the Crusaders could face a parade of arms.
Wednesday will represent the 94th meeting between Valpo and Notre Dame on the diamond. The Irish possess a 72-21 lead in an all-time series that kicked off in 1958. The Crusaders last defeated Notre Dame on May 2nd, 2012.
Live audio and video will be available for Wednesday's game. WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will have the call while free video streaming will be delivered courtesy of WatchND. Live stats will also be provided. Links to all three are listed at ValpoAthletics.com.